Thursday, April 17, 2014

Because an Online Atheist Claimed That Martin Bormann Was A Christian

Having found, over and over again that the atheist conception of history and historical figures encountered online is anything from fanciful to false, ludicrously fictitious to full and damnable lies, I've, from time to time, tried to present a corrected record.  Well, last night, after claiming that Galileo was executed for believing in a heliocentric universe, one of them told a really damnable lie, that the infamously anti-religious Martin Bormann was a Catholic.   And for that I will point out, before presenting him, in his own words, what I said last night, that his anti-religious rants would fit right in on many atheist dominated comment threads today.

Here, as quoted in The Third Reich Source Book by Anson Rainbach, Sander L. Gilman  University of California Press 2013 pg. 440-441, (any typos are mine).

Confidential memorandum circulated on 6 June 1941.  First published in The Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1954 - 1 October 1946, document 075-D, XXXV (Nuremberg, 1947-49), 7-13.

National Socialist and Christian concepts are irreconcilable.  The Christian churches build upon man's ignorance and endeavor to keep the greatest possible number of people in a state of ignorance.  For it is only in this fashion that the churches can maintain their power.  National Socialism, on the other hand, rests on scientific foundations.  Christianity has certain unalterable principles, established nearly two thousand years ago, which have petrified into a system of dogma that is even further removed from reality.  National Socialism, on the other hand, if it is to fulfill its purpose, must forever be brought in harmony with the latest results of scientific inquiry.

The Christian churches have always recognized the dangers that threaten their existence from the exact discoveries of science.   They have therefore tried to suppress or falsify scientific research using fraudulent science, i.e., theology, and dogma.  Our National Socialist concept of the world is on a far higher plane than than are the ideas of Christianity, whose essential points have been taken over from the Jews.   For that reason, too, we have no need for Christianity.  [...]

When we National Socialists speak of a belief in God, we do not mean the same thing as naive Christians and their clerical exploiters have in mind -- some anthropoid creature sitting around somewhere in the spheres.  Instead, our intent is to open people's eyes to the fact that, aside from this small planet earth, which is relatively insignificant with relation to the vast universe, there is an unimaginably great number of other celestial bodies in the universe, an infinite number of bodies surrounded as is the sun by planets and, like these planets, in turn, similarly surrounded by smaller bodies, moons.  The power of nature's law that propels these infinite bodies through the universe is what we call the omnipotent force, or God.  The claim that this universal force could somehow care for the fate of each individual, of each bacillus here on earth, that it might be influenced by so-called prayers or other astounding things, rests to a great degree on the naivete or on profit-minded impertinence. 

We National Socialists, on the other hand, demand of ourselves that we live as naturally as possible -- that is to say, in accord with the natural laws of life.  The more precisely we understand and observe the laws of nature and of life and the more closely we adhere to them, the more we correspond to the will of that omnipotent force.  The more we understand that will, the greater our successes shall be. 

The logical conclusion that flows from this basic incompatibility between National Socialist and Christian views is that we must reject any increase in existing support for and any sponsorship of emerging Christian denominations.  For this reason, we have definitively abandoned the idea of establishing an Evangelical Lutheran Reich Church formed from a conglomeration of the various denominations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church because the Protestant Church is as hostile to us as the Catholic Church.  offering any form of support to the Protestant Church would ultimately work against us. [...]

For the first time in German history, the leadership of the nation rests consciously and completely in the hands of the Fuhrer himself.  In creating the party, its organizations, and subsidiaries, the Fuhrer has devised an instrument for himself and thus for the whole of the German national leadership that renders him independent of the church.  All influences that might impair or even harm the leadership exercised by the Fuhrer and the aid of the National Socialist Party must be eliminated.  More and more, the people must be wrested from the clutches of the churches and their ministries.  It is obvious from their point of view that the churches shall and must resist this loss of power.  But never again are the churches to receive any measure of influence over the leadership of the nation.  That influence must be broken, completely and forever.  

Only the nation's government -- and by its order, the party, its organizations and subsidiaries -- exercises the right of governance over the people and the nation.  Just as the harmful influences of astrologers, fortune-tellers, and other swindlers are being systematically eliminated and suppressed by the state, so too must the possibility of ecclesiastical influence be removed.  Only when that has occurred will the nation's leadership be able to exert complete control over the individual citizen.  Only then will Volk and Reich be secure in their existence for all future times. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Heinrich Schütz Matthäus-Passion


I might be wrong but I think Schutz's settings of the passions might contain the longest passages of sacred monophony since Dufay was commissioned to write an extensive body of chant about two hundred years earlier.   Off hand, I can't think of another example in between them or, in fact, afterward.  Its place was taken by recitative with an instrumental accompaniment in later settings.

Finland Puts Gay Porn Artist Who Eroticized Nazism and Rape On Stamps

When I heard about the Finnish Postal Service's decision to put Tom of Finland's images on stamps I thought it must be some straight people stupidly thinking they were doing something deliciously bold and transgressive.   And apparently that's how it is being presented.  Here's how the Guardian puts it.

The Finnish postal service's decision to use the artist's bold images on a new set of stamps will make philatelic history, but he's not the first gay hero to grace an envelope.

Make no mistake about this, an artist who presented thinly veiled images of Nazis and fascists as erotic heroes, of gay rape as an erotic image is not a "gay hero". Tom of Finland and his drawings are an emblem of internalized hatred by the victims of that hatred.   For country with Finland's recent history to put him on stamps could only mean that the generation for which the Nazi period, the period of Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini, has ceased to have any formative influence on its public life.   How quickly those hardest of hard lessons are forgotten by the class with enough education and professional attainment to be making the decision of what to put on stamps is extremely disturbing.   Or maybe it's just straight people in the artsy crowd wanting to do something that will impress others in their crowd as being kewl.

Well, I'm not impressed at its kewlness, I'm disgusted.  I don't want those images to be how straight people think of gay men, I certainly don't want gay men to think of ourselves in those term.   Fascism, Nazism, rape, bondage are not what we deserve, we deserve entirely more than that.  We deserve more than being sex objects to each other and certainly more than objects to abuse and discard.   We deserve love and love is incompatible with what Tom of Finland presented as what gay men were all about.   Putting Tom of Finland on stamps is a perpetuation of the hatred of gay men, only by other means that are far more insidious than legal discrimination and oppression.   Once they have gotten gay men to oppress themselves, they've perfected a mechanism of oppression that will be far, far harder to defeat.  When we do it to ourselves and each other, they can say that it's our choice.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

J. S. Bach Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpichord #3 in G minor

Jordi Savall  Viola da Gamba

Ton Koopman  Harpsichord


Why Religion Is Essential For The Left: Reading Scripture Deeply Instead of Just Watching the Movie

It was my intention to post before Passover about this discussion between Krista Tippett and Avivah Zornberg about Zornberg's fascinating reading of the story of the Jews in Egypt and their liberation from the book of Exodus.  I began going over all the interesting points Zornberg made about small details of the text that I'd just passed over to get to the action parts of the story.   That's the typical, superficial, way that scriptures are read.  Which is responsible for both the kind of superficial Biblical fundamentalism that so frequently misses the point entirely, the moral meaning of the text, the more profound implications of the relationship of people, each other and God.   Which increasingly unsurprisingly ALSO leads to the atheist fundamentalist conception of the scriptures and religion.   Those two fundamentalisms are joined at the .... well, "hip" by their superficial and naive conceptions of religion.   Here's a passage that points that out perfectly.

Ms. Tippett: I wonder when you see a movie version of the sea parting. The Israelites coming out triumphant. And maybe you’ve just answered this question too but what is missing for you in that great climactic moment which does result in the freedom of the Israelites. What is missing for you in a kind of simple portrayal of that?

Dr. Zornberg: Well, I think, again, it's the question of The Particulars of Rapture. In other words, I'm always looking for the particulars.

Ms. Tippett: Yeah. "The Particulars of Rapture" is the title that you gave to your book about Exodus, so I wanted to ask you what you meant by that title. So, good.

Dr. Zornberg: All right, so we'll try to touch on both. It seems to me that it's a kind of storybook story, that Cecil B. DeMille story, in which there are the bad guys and the good guys, and the bad guys get it. You know, they get their comeuppance, and the good guys rejoice. And, somehow, it doesn't seem to me to be, that’s not a story for adults. What you find in the midrashic versions, many multiple narratives, is an emphasis on the complexity of the Israelite experience and the fact that, immediately they land on the other side, they begin to complain and sin, essentially to doubt the whole story of redemption. In other words, nothing is absolute. And the fact that the Israelites are witnessing the deaths of the Egyptians, that is something, according to a very famous and beautiful midrash, that means that the angels in heaven are not allowed to sing a song of praise. God stops them singing, because 'the creatures of My hand, the work of My hands, are dying in the sea. How can you be singing a song of praise?'

Ms. Tippett: And God is speaking of the Egyptians.

Dr. Zornberg: He's speaking of the Egyptians, at least in certain versions of the midrash. In other versions, He's speaking of the Israelites, who are also on the edge. So there is a sense here of the pathos of the human condition. And the Israelites are very aware of that. Their song and their dance — the women play a special role, again, in this story; they sing separately — has to do with the kind of faith that is required to live in a condition in which rapture doesn't usually come unalloyed. It comes with a sadness and a tension involved in it. So "The Particulars of Rapture," that wonderful line from a poem by Wallace Stevens, I had in mind the subtleties and the complexities of all the many stories, like the stories that are hidden within the apparent grand narrative.

There is the grand narrative which can be told very simply, and you could say it's a kind of children's story, and then there are all the details, which really make the experience, even the details that one isn't totally aware of oneself and which emerge sometimes only on retelling.

Since I have little time today and I really would like you to listen to the podcast or read the transcript,  here's something relevant to yesterday's post, pointing out the importance of  exactly this story of God liberating an enslaved People, how God did that in human terms, through imperfect, difficult and unwilling human agency with all of the messy complications involved.  In short, it is a story that gives the real why and how of abolitionism and why this story has been so important, not to free people living in American style middle-class comfort, self-satisfied and contented, but to people living in slavery more crushing and oppressive than the typical readers of Alternet or going to a mega-church can conceive of.   I will go so far as to say that I'm skeptical of any struggle against slavery and oppression that doesn't learn the same things that this story tells.

Ms. Tippett: The great theme of the Exodus — and this story has been used by other people in other situations also. African-Americans, slaves were very inspired, and in the civil rights movement, were very inspired by this Exodus story. There's liberation theology. It's been empowering for all kinds of people in all kinds of bondage. But tell me, when you think about the theme of human freedom, human liberation. I mean, what are the layers of the message that this narrative tells about that experience?

Dr. Zornberg: Well, I think one of the important issues is one we've touched on, and that is the need for those who have to be liberated to achieve in themselves some sense of the possibility of change. I think there comes a situation in totalitarian regimes of all kinds in which there is what Vaclav Havel, the Czech leader, calls in one of his books  a kind of automatism, in which everyone somewhere becomes the system. People don't just accept their role, they almost become that role. There are no choices involved anymore. Nadezhda Mandelstam writes about the Russian situation under communism also as one in which no one believed that there could possibly be any change, nothing would ever change again. And this is not only those who are imposing the regime, but also those who suffered under it. So it seems to me that the story of the Exodus is one in which, in a quieter way, but I think in a very real way, one of the most important themes for liberation is the need for a process of growth within the persecuted if they are to have a history.

Notice how Zornberg finds in the hardships of the story during and after the escape from bondage how, in order to truly be free, to be a free People, there had to be the most profound transformation of The People, merely being dis-enslaved wasn't enough to become free, that was what the decades of wandering were about.  I think that we in the American left could learn a lot about why our own choices as much as the backlash of our opponents have kept us from coalescing into a governing coalition.  This program provides a lot to think about as to why religion can't be divorced from public discourse and the political struggle for justice.  We got the very concepts we struggle for from the Jewish scriptures and tradition, they present an enormous range of human experience with those ideas and the difficulty of making them manifest and real in human history.  To pretend that the history of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement and, yes, the feminist movement, is to abandon what has worked for what has not worked.  If there is something that is obvious, the alternatives, the show biz spectacles and ego feeding spectacles of fundamentalism and the vapid and nihilistic materialism of the intellectual variety have never worked.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jacques Pellen & Gildas.Boclé Maen Kuzh

Maen Kuzh

Jacques Pellen, guitar
Gildas Boclé, bass

Gildas Boclé has become one of my favorite bass players, few bow the instrument as well as he does.  Looking for his recordings has led to finding out about a lot of other fine musicians he plays with. His exploration of the large range of Celtic music, from continental Celtic cultures to Ireland is miles above most of the stuff that is passed off for that genre.

What Would Sojourner Truth Say if Amanda Marcotte Told Her To Shut Up About Her Religious Motivation?

Through RMJ I read that the anti-religious bigot, Amanda Marcotte, has demanded that Jimmy Carter should put a muzzle on himself, not talking about his religious beliefs and how it informs his advocacy for freedom and equality. Instead, she says, he should follow the "secular world in putting the real-world evidence first and seeing where it leads them."    As one of the comments at his blog notes,  Marcotte's piece was first posted on Alternet, one of the major forums of anti-religious bigotry on the pseudo-left.

Having, from time to time, stumbled across the  still hot and ongoing ranting at and denunciation by their fellow "secularists" of  Rebecca Watson* I'm not sure that's a valid claim.  The wake of "elevatorgate" and the tsunami of atheist sexism it unleashed (even from some rather elegant atheists such as Richard Dawkins) doesn't lead naturally to the belief that "secularism" - and when Marcotte says it, the term means, in fact atheism - is a sexism free zone.

But that's a problem for the atheists to figure out for themselves, for us it can serve as a test for any claim that they've gotten shut of sexism, which they obviously haven't.

It might be just a coincidence but I've been getting more orders from atheists to keep religion out of public discourse in the past few months and there seem to be more of them who seem to believe that there is some kind of constitutional ban on people talking about their religion in public and in politics.

Well, there is no such ban on private citizens and residents supporting their stands for equality, racial, gender, and sexual, with religious arguments.

 I am happy to report to you that Amanda Marcotte and the other censorious atheists are not the boss of us.

That Marcotte doesn't like that is her problem and only a problem for the wider left if we are stupid enough to gratify her bigotry.  There is every reason to believe that, in light of atheism NOT having evidenced their way out of massive sexism, anyone who had looked at the largely boys-club identity of previous iterations of organized atheism that they would not have given it up**.   And, despite an active propaganda effort to turn feminism into an atheist campaign, it was, in fact, informed from the start by the biblical demand for equal justice and respect***.   I wonder what Sojourner Truth would say to Marcotte's demand that she shut up about her religious motivations in both her abolitionism and her feminism.   If it were possible to poll women on this issue I wonder what their response would be to that command.

Religion was one of the major forces behind the social movements of the 19th century that all of our current liberal politics rests on.  Liberalism, itself, is based on metaphysical assertions that, ultimately, find their only secure basis in religious belief.

It would be the stupidest possible thing for religious liberals to give into the tantrums of atheists that they censor their strongest and most effective motive in working and struggling for change.   It's not as if the atheists have done better than the religious left has in stifling sexism within organized atheism.  The fact is that religious liberals have done entirely better at that.

* For those who aren't aware, the pseudo-skeptic and anti-religious bigot, Rebecca Watson set off an earthquake with her rather tepid suggestion at the 2011 World Atheist Convention to male atheists that women really might not welcome having a man come onto them, alone, in an elevator in a strange city in the very early hours of the morning.   You can investigate the incident by searching either Watson's name and "elevatorgate" you'll find plenty of what I'm talking about.  Especially on YouTube, where you don't have to be able to type to rant.   Here's one of the less offensive accounts that is critical of Watson, note that it quotes Marcotte as being aware of the controversy and that it exposed the old-line sexism that would seem to saturate organized atheism as much as it does many other groups, religious and secular.   Though I can tell you that the kind of talk that issues from her fellow atheists would never be tolerated by religious liberals in their sphere of activity.  You can read more in the first thing I ever read about it here.  I won't link to the massively sexist, and offensively vulgar rants against Watson and her allies that are still being posted.

**  George Hansen, in his sociological study of what for all intents and purposes is the direct predecessor of today's organized atheism, CSICOP,  noted the rowdy boy-club nature of it:

Such perceptions are not limited to outsiders. This has been an issue within CSICOP as well. In the March 1985 newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, Mary Coulman (1985) wrote a piece titled “Where Are the Women?” She reported that sometimes she was the only woman who attended meetings of the Bay Area Skeptics and that often there were only 2 or 3 women present with 60 to 70 men. Coulman wrote another column in the June issue asking the same question, noting that no women had yet replied. Finally, months later, Elissa Pratt-Lowe (1985) responded:

I think another aspect of organized skepticism that may deter women is the aggressive, “macho” attitudes held by some of the (male) participants. It seems to me that some “skeptics” are more interested in ridicule than in exploring and challenging pseudoscientific beliefs. [This was followed by “Very true, I think-MC”]. (p. 7)

    The Bay Area Skeptics are not the only ones to confront the problem. In response to an article by physicist George Lawrence in Rocky Mountain Skeptic, John Wilder (1988) wrote: “For all of the author’s [Lawrence’s] scientific, academic and intellectual credentials, he displays a level of disrespect for others that, in my opinion, is completely inappropriate. . . . The author succeeded only in subjecting a group of sincere . . . people to outright ridicule” (p. 8). 

Though later he pointed out that there were other predominately male groups that didn't have the same character.

The problems caused by cynicism and hostility have been recognized by the organization, and steps are being taken to diminish them. The severity of the problem cannot be attributed entirely to male dominance; after all, a number of other predominantly male organizations do not have such a reputation. It is likely that there are a number of other factors that contribute to the perceived demeanor.

Given the character of many women in the neo-atheist, pseudo-skeptical movement,  including Marcotte and Watson, they share the same derisive, demeaning, bigoted habits of discourse that is easily turned against women as well as against even religious liberals who have the most impeccable feminist credentials.

*** Perhaps more on that in a later post.  The history of religious motivation of feminism would seem to be traceable to the 17th century, arguably back into the middle ages.  Given the alternatives, it isn't be surprising that a lot of women found that convents allowed them far more freedom than secular life did.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Eric Le Lann : trumpet
Nelson Veras : guitar
Gildas Boclé : bass


The Song Is For You

Ashamed to Admit The Numbers of People Murdered for Being Christians Comes As a Shock to Me

You have, doubtless, heard the bright young things on the blogs snarking about the persecution of Christians, mocking the idea that Christians are being persecuted, basing their confident assertions on their experience of sitting on their bottoms while on North America.   The brighter of the young things will regret that there are no lions to throw "Xians" to.   Which is as witty as it generally gets with the bright young things these days.

Well, shocking as it may be,  it turns out their experience of affluent America and Canada doesn't prepare them to know what things are like in the entire world where there are quite a number of Christians murdered for being Christians.  John Allen jr's column today begins by noting one of them.

Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt, killed in Syria last week just shy of his 76th birthday, personified the best of the missionary spirit in Catholicism. He spent 50 years in his adopted country, humbly serving poor and disabled persons regardless of their race or religion.

Whenever a Syrian came to his door seeking help, van der Lugt told a friend, “I don’t see Muslims or Christians, only human beings.”

At the time of his death, van der Lugt was the last Westerner in the bitterly contested city of Homs. On Monday morning, a still-unidentified assailant dragged him into the street outside his Jesuit residence, beat him, and then shot him twice in the head.
Most observers believe the killer was an Islamic radical, though a few suspect the Assad regime may have orchestrated the murder in order to blame the rebels.

For the last several years, van der Lugt served at a small center for mentally and physically disabled people. A Muslim charity would give him around nine pounds of flour every week, which he turned into bread, giving half a loaf to the 30 neediest people he knew.

“I try to help the mentally ill,” van der Lugt said in a recent interview, “not by analyzing their problems, as the problems are obvious and there’s no solution for them here. I listen to them and give as much food as I can.”

Just wondering but I wonder how many of the bright young things have spent fifty minutes engaged in something like that in any kind of danger.   And Fr. vand der Lugt wasn't the only one Allen mentioned by name.

Earlier this month, a 25-year-old Coptic Christian woman in Egypt named Mary Sameh George was hauled from her car near a church in Cairo, mauled to such an extent that portions of her scalp were torn off, and then killed when her throat was slit.

The assailants reportedly were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Vietnam, a Catholic convert and human rights activist named Dinh Dang Dinh died April 4 of untreated stomach cancer in prison, having been jailed in 2012 for “antistate propaganda.”

In that context, van der Lugt’s death has to be seen as part of a dramatic, and often untold, religion story of the early 21st century — the global war on Christians.

Different source give different figures on how extensive the persecution and murder of Christians is but it is real, despite what the bubble people living here might believe on the basis of their entirely parochial experience.

Also, alarmist rhetoric about a “war on religion” in places such as the United States is sometimes stretched past the breaking point, applied not to actual violence and oppression but to policy debates about which reasonable people draw differing conclusions.

That said, the scope and scale of real anti-Christian violence around the world is nonetheless staggering.

In North Korea and Eritrea, tens of thousands of Christians languish in what amounts to concentration camps for religious prisoners. In Nigeria, Christians face a growing menace from the radical Boko Haram movement. In Iraq, a once-thriving Christian community that can trace its roots back to the early centuries of the faith has been decimated. In India, poor Christians who often belong to the “untouchables” in the old caste system are routinely harassed by radical Hindus, suffering a violent attack at a rate of once every other day.

The high-end estimate for the number of Christians killed for their faith each year is around 100,000, while the low end is a few hundred. That works out to somewhere between one new Christian martyr every hour, if the higher figure is to believed, and one every day.

Considering the war against religion that the United States financed during the Reagan administration,  remember Iran-Contra,  the denial that there are Christians who are murdered for following their religion by people old enough to remember that deserves a name.  Amerinesia, perhaps?  

Remember this the next time you read Amanda Marcotte or some other big name bigot on the blogs snarking about this subject.  The fashionable anti-Christianity of today's left isn't much different from the fashionable anti-Semitism among the bright young things earlier in the last century or the anti-Islamic fashion among those who the bright young things officially despise as gauche, unfashionable bigots.   Among the bright young things, it's necessary to hate the right people at the right time, though, they will turn on a dime, especially as concerns Muslims, these days.

Update:  I'm almost tempted to post the comments by exactly the bright young thing and one superannuated poseur BYT as examples of what I'm talking about but I doubt anyone who is actually reading this is going to have any trouble imagining what those say.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

James Scott Ragtime Oriole Played by Scott Kirby

It's unusual to hear James Scott's music played like this, it's usually played as if it were a steeple chase.  It gains a lot played at this tempo.

Odetta You Don't Know My Mind

Why The Leftist Media Must Stop Disappearing The Religious Left

I had  just gotten done answering a twit at Mother Jones who declared that "religion poison's everything" when I found a link to this story in my e-mail.

Tutu: Climate Crisis Demands 'Anti-Apartheid-Style Boycott' of Fossil Fuel Industry  Nobel laureate says 'people of conscience' must break ties with oil and gas companies that are destroying planet's future

Which led to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's piece in The Guardian.

Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects.

This is why, no matter where you live, it is appalling that the US is debating whether to approve a massive pipeline transporting 830,000 barrels of the world's dirtiest oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Producing and transporting this quantity of oil, via the Keystone XL pipeline, could increase Canada's carbon emissions by over 30%.

If the negative impacts of the pipeline would affect only Canada and the US, we could say good luck to them. But it will affect the whole world, our shared world, the only world we have. We don't have much time.

This week in Berlin, scientists and public representatives have been weighing up radical options for curbing emissions contained in the third report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The bottom line is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps. The horse may not have bolted, but it's well on its way through the stable door.

Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so. It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden "to till it and keep it". To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.

Which is one of only scores and hundreds of similar examples of moral clarity issuing forth from those minds "poisoned by religion".  The reason more people aren't aware of them is that they are purposely and consciously disappeared by the American media and corporate media in other places.

That it is The Guardian that carried this piece is significant, if they cared to, various media outlets of the left could be filled with similar calls from religious figures exhorting people to do the right thing.  That they don't choose to is a different form of disappearing the religious left for reasons other than that they disagree on these issues.   The fact is, they don't disagree on these issues and the fact is that, as the enormously positive reaction to Pope Francis shows,  the world is starving for that kind of religious advocacy for justice, for the environment.   The secular advocacy for that has not been notably successful and there is no reason to expect it will succeed any more in the future than it has now.   I have noted before that religion provides people with a reason to perform some measure of self-sacrifice for reasons of morality that atheism doesn't provide.

The question is if the leftist media will service the ideological hatred of the anti-religious fragment of the left or if it will serve the agenda of the left by strengthening the most important force available to the left helping to strengthen and channel the moral convictions of the majority of people on the left into effective action.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gary Burton Joy Spring

I figure that he was about 17 when he made this recording.  How many of us can say that we had invented an entirely new instrumental technique in service to jazz music by that age?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mary Lou Williams Aires from the Zodiac Suite

..... the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,

I was thinking of doing a music post with an April theme and that passage went through my head.   I don't know anyone who made melody on that theme better than my favorite.

The Rwandan Genocide Was Brought To You By The Media And We Have That Kind of a Media As Well

The radio told people to go to work and everyone knew that meant get your machete and kill Tutsis.

I have been listening to the 20 year after reports about the Rwandan Genocide on NPR's morning edition and either I missed something or they, with all their resources and twenty years to get it right did.  I have heard no mention of how it was the radio, primarily, but the media in general that caused the genocide in 1994.  

Here's what as close a witness to the genocide as possible, Jackie Northam - she had a machete held to her throat by some drunken militiaman - said this morning:

And then there was the Hutu man I talked with several months after the genocide ended. Fat and middle-aged, he was in jail for beating to death more than a dozen of his Tutsi neighbors.

He told me they were people he'd been friends with and regularly shared dinner with. He was a godfather to one of the children he killed. He couldn't explain why; he said didn't know what came over him.

For me, this sums up the Rwanda genocide. It's like a madness took over the country, turning otherwise normal, reasonable, loving people into monsters. It took me a long time afterward to try to make sense of what I had witnessed.

But I finally concluded there was no use trying. I believe mankind, at its base, is good. What happened in Rwanda 20 years ago was an aberration.

In the few parts of our free press who aren't ignoring the anniversary, I have yet to hear or see any mention of the central role that the media played in inciting the "madness" that saw long time friends across ethnic lines, murder the people and families who they had lived next to for years.   But there isn't any possible room for doubt about that,  the media was what made the murders kill their neighbors.

Anti-Tutsi articles and graphic cartoons began appearing in the Kangura newspaper from around 1990. 
In June 1993 a new radio station called Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) began broadcasting in Rwanda… 

The station was rowdy and used street language - there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. Sometimes the announcers were drunk. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.” (Linda Melvern)

Its stated aim was “to create harmonious development in Rwandese society” but nothing could have been further from the truth. It was set up and financed by Hutu extremists to prepare the people of Rwanda for genocide by demonising the Tutsi and encouraging hate and violence.

And its danger was noted by people in Rwanda, even as the murder it was inciting, instructing murderers to slaughter their neighbors and telling them where to find people who were hiding.   In one of the most shameful parts of the grotesquely irresponsible inaction by the United States, our ambassador pretended that the instructions to commit genocide were open to interpretation.

Some people - including the Belgian ambassador and staff of several aid agencies - recognised the danger and asked for international help in shutting down the broadcasts, but it was impossible to persuade western diplomats to take it seriously. They dismissed the station as a joke. 

David Rawson, the US ambassador, said that its euphemisms were open to interpretation. The US, he said, believed in freedom of speech.

Many Rwandans, however, knew the threat. ‘I listened to RTLMC’, said a survivor, ‘because if you were mentioned over the airways, you were sure to be carted off a short time later by the interahamwe. You knew you had to change your address at once.” 

That there was no ambiguity in what was said is apparent in the transcripts of broadcasts recorded then.   And the use of the radio was apparent from the earliest days of the genocide.  Here is what General Romeo Dallaire, one of the Westerners with the least to be ashamed of said.  

In fact, on the second day of the genocide when the interim government of the extremists was established, they raised that [incident]. They said, "You U.N. guys are supporting the RPF. Look what you did on the 18th [of] November and the botched investigation." It was one of those creeping components that was well used throughout the propaganda exercise by the extremists and their radio station to try to discredit us as we kept moving ahead.

The refusal of the American government to take out the radio towers instructing the murderers in how to kill more people, using freedom of speech or freedom of the press as their excuse for inaction,  has to stand along side the refusal to bomb rail lines being used to transport people to the death camps as an unforgivable atrocity by omission.   

The gods that the secular society of the United States has made of "speech" and "press,"  putting it above even the lives of people as they are being threatened with murder and even as they are being murdered is a serious issue that it is forbidden to address.   No one needed to invent something like the stupid "Godwin's law" to stifle discussion of it because those who should be talking about it are inhibited by something far more effective, the slogans contained in the tragically poetic, insufficiently nuanced writing of the first several amendments of the Constitution and the idiotic absolutism that was adopted by liberals at the behest of the commercial media and the ideological libertarians who place those idols before the lessons of the past two centuries under that constitution. 

The First Amendment pieties that the American government used to avoid doing what was morally imperative in Rwanda twenty years ago this month, are to liberals what the Second Amendment is for the right.  And their use of both works better for them than it does for egalitarian democracy and liberal values.  The signs of that are all around us, with the arming of the far right in the United States, armed to the teeth, and even as their political arm talks openly of "second amendment remedies" as a legitimate means of overturning civil government, as the gun industry, acting hand in glove with them, whip up the paranoia and belief that their lives and rights are under attack, adding the fatal ingredient of self-righteous, self-protection as an excuse to use the enormous personal arsenal that they sold the paranoids.   

A dangerous number of those people have armed themselves with automatic weapons, of the kind that our government could not bring itself to ban even after the slaughter of young children at Sandy Hook and the Sandy Hooks that mount across America every week.   I am telling you right up front that they haven't amassed that arsenal without the intention of using it and we are their targets as certainly as the Tutsis were of the owners of the radio stations that urged the murderers on.   And it's a lot easier to kill lots of people with automatic rifles.   The American right also owns the hate-talk radio that saturates the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Only we aren't brave enough to do something about it even with the lessons of Rwanda there to be read. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nina Simone Love Me or Leave Me

Update:  Rags and Old Iron

Planting Season Isn't Leaving Me Much Time For Research

Bela Bartok, talking about his folklore research once said he was intrigued about a curse popular among the impoverished peasants,  "May you have to buy your bread."  He, living in cities all of his life, didn't understand it at first but eventually he realized that it was, in effect, a wish that someones crops fail so they would have to buy food, maybe starving or going into debt since money was rare to absent in the lives of the peasants.   It's something I can understand.  As someone who made the oh, so practical decision to pursue a career in music, I've long been dependent on gardening to provide a good part of my food.   The cold spring has made it a late start as it is and there are still problems with the arm I broke.  So, I'm reduced to posting an exchange I have had recently.   This is part of the comment thread from Jeffrey J. Kripal's excellent article at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

People who have read much of what I've written won't find a lot of new material in the exchange but, who knows, maybe there are some new readers here.   I hope to have a proper post on Jeffrey Kripal's excellent article later.

    • Seriously, who really knows exactly what Twain dreamed and what happened? Did Twain himself? Fact: Every time a memory is recalled it is recreated and it changes. Fact: At times of stress and emotional activity memories are even more unreliable. The evidence is in on this. What more, Twain was great at making believable stuff up and you don't have to know you are deceiving yourself to make stuff up.
      You can take this kind of story as the primary data on the nature of the universe. Alternately, you could look to the independently verifiable discoveries of physics, biology, evolution and psychology as primary data. Evolutionary theory suggests that making up believable, interesting stories that are tuned the proclivities of your fellow humans is highly adaptive. We are biased towards good stories.
      This is why gut feeling and anecdotes don't cut it in science. That's why, for example, they spent billions building the Large Hadron Collider rather than asking a great author for an opinion.

    Who knows when a materialist researcher asks the subject of an experiment what they were experiencing when the fMRI was lighting up, if they are giving an honest or accurate account of their experience? You don't get to dismiss peoples' reports of their experience when it isn't convenient for your ideology and then claim that reports of experience that you can turn into a story that supports your ideology are more trustworthy.
    You are absolutely wrong if you think that psychology isn't absolutely dependent on reports of subjective experience because it is saturated with those, it solicits those constantly. And there is nothing about the reports of subjective experience that it uses that makes it any more credible than any other reports of subjective experience. The only difference is in the pretense that, because it is called science, that that somehow purifies the reports it uses. The same is true for any part of biology that attempts to deal with behavior and thoughts. It is even worse when the subject is ethology because, then, it is a researcher, trained in the conventions and habits of his specialty, who is replacing reports by the subject of their thoughts, something only they can possibly know, with his own, creative narrative of what that is.
    Considering Twain's initial reluctance to share his experience under his own name, because he knew it would get attacked by 19th century version of today's pseudo-skeptics and his persistence in asserting its truth in the face of that, I'd say his story is credible in a way that the casual reports of people in fMRI based experiments haven't been tested as being.
    When it is that kind of experience, science isn't the method of evaluating it that will produce anything. It is too subjective, too complex and too one-off for science to do anything with. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have persuasive value of exactly the same kind that science is ultimately based in. Ultimately everything, even logic, mathematics and science, is dependent on persuasion and not absolute proof. People have a right to make their own judgement as to what they find persuasive, and even if you want to protest that is a right, it's what's going to happen anyway. Which is the reason that most people reject a materialist explanation of their experience of the world. They find that is wider than what materialism can account for.

    I don't dismiss people's subjective reports, I take them with a grain of salt. If a million people have 10 dreams in a night there's very likely going to be some that correspond remarkably well with the future, isn't there?
    Alternative 1: Einsteins General Relativity - a hypothesis that has a precise mathematical formulation, has been subject to stringent testing, has produced a number of very accurate predictions that have worked out, is basic to so much physics, and, makes a clear statement about how information can flow in spacetime - is WRONG.
    Alternative 2: Twain has some kind of dream involving his brother's death, possibly due to the fact that he noticed that the work he was doing was dangerous and he was worrying about it. A short time later, Twain's brother was actually killed and some aspects of the death process may - this is now untestable - have been remarkably similar to what actually happened or what Twain thought happened after he had been over it in his head numerous times. BTW: You might notice that intelligent creative people regularly strongly believe things that are wrong, and must be wrong because different intelligent creative people believe contradictory things, for example: you and I. Humans have unreliable memories and and a capacity to "storify" random events into juicy narratives.
    If you know much about physics and the amount of careful testing that is required to accept it, you wouldn't lightly drop it on the basis of a bunch emotionally resonant stories and fluffy ideas. (Ideas that when thought through actually produce more questions than they answer, like, "how does this work?" and, "why doesn't everyone do this all the time? it would be totally useful" and so on.) I'm very clear about which side of that particular line I come down on, and why. YMMV.
    (And, yes, General Relativity does have some problems, but, as I understand them, they are not the kind that makes your acceptance of Twain's dream divination any more reasonable at all. If you can come up with a theory of spacetime that matches the breadth and reliability of relativity, plus allows and explains predetermination, you will get not just a Noble prize and a very superior kind of celebrity, but likely a sainthood as well. Unfortunately, it probably won't resolve what happened in Twain's case because the old prosaic explanation works pretty well too.)

    Anthony_McCarthy  jim birch • 2 days ago
    Your choosing Einstein's work to make your argument doesn't work, it is a false comparison. Other than Einstein's report that his thinking was aided by an experience of imagining riding on a light beam, it has little to nothing to do with reports of subjective experience as you condemned in your first comment. My point is that materialists, always the first to condemn reports of subjective experience when they don't like the resulting conclusions drawn from it, have no problem with calling the collection of reports of subjective experience "science" when the results are something they can use in promoting their ideology. The profession of so many prominent "skeptics", Ray Hyamn, James Alcock, Barry Byerstein, Richard Weismann,... psychology, has continuously collected self-reports of subjective experience - often in a very leading and unreliable manner - and presented their analysis and conclusions of it as if it were hard science. If the standards they demand for the generally far more carefully conducted experiments psi researchers were applied to psychological research, their "science" would evaporate.

    Literally every alleged science that deals with human and animal behavior and thinking is based on subjective reports of experience by human subjects asked to report on what their experience is or was, or subjective reports from scientists of what they are seeing - pretending that those scientists don't have a professional and personal bias as they make those observations. All of science, really, is supposed to be based in reporting subjective experience, observation. If what is observed is simple and accurate measurement of it is possible, as with the objects that physics deals with, the reliability of those observations is high. If it is something vague and complex and open to interpretation, behavior, it is far less reliably accurate. When it is of something that is invisible, the experience of what happens in peoples' minds, it is of little to no reliability of the kind that you can get in physics. When it is guessing what animals and people in the lost past where thinking, that is only likely to tell you about what the scientist making up those narratives was thinking about it.

    There are other problems with your comparison but I've already made too many comments on this thread.

    Sorry, you don't understand science. All the raw data of science is subjective, just like any other field of human endeavour. Like everyone else, scientists can be deluded. Like everyone else they are prone to fashion, group think, cool stories, biases, error, fluffy thinking. Plenty of scientists have believed in spooky things. They are human and it's an evolved human propensity.
    It's a matter of how you treat this subjectivity problem. I won't go through the philosophy of science - there's plenty of stuff you can read - but some of the key points are testability, independent verification, internal consistency and compatibility with other established theory. These are why science works and we are not still back in the dark ages of basic impulses and fanciful stories.
    You might also like to find out a little more about Relativity and time before you casually claim that someone's subjective experience would trump the physicist's theory of time that is experimentally rock solid. I would want a hell of a lot lot more solid evidence before I'd take a attractively spooky personal narrative over highly confirmed basic physics. Where is the real evidence? How about someone who can consistently predict dice throws at better than chance? Can you point to someone who can predict lottery numbers and has grown rich doing so? I think not.
    Your derogatory term "materialist" is just a cover for fluffy thinking. If there is a non-material world out there, demonstrate it a reliable, intersubjective way. Guess what? Come up with anything more that one-off anecdotes and there would immediate rush of "materialist" scientists out there studying it. Until then, your grandiose theorizing remains in the realm of human fictional narrative, nothing more.
    * * * *
    If you are genuinely interesting in advancing your understanding of the world you might try this question: Just supposing the universe is a set material events, what needs explaining and what are those explanations? (Clue: traditional explanations are highly delusional, if sticky.) Supposing subjectivity was just evolved self-aware brain activity, how might this work and how does that change things? (Clue: A lot.) Would it be easy to for humans to understand? (No.) Is our capacity for spooky stories consistent with evolution, ie, adaptive? (Yes.)

    Anthony_McCarthy  jim birch • a day ago
    "but some of the key points are testability, independent verification, internal consistency and compatibility with other established theory"

    You're seriously out of date. Such scientists as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Sean Carroll, and others have removed the need for those old fashioned standards of science. Dawkins creates "behaviors" unobserved and unevidenced extending back into the paleolithic era and back far into the far remoter past. He has no evidence that such "behaviors" were ever engaged in but he doesn't stop there. He claims that those "behaviors" were the instructions of genes to the organisms that expressed them (he created the genes, by the way, making his words flesh, literally) and that the "behaviors" become "adaptations" because they constitute a reproductive advantage through natural selection ("natural selection" is a magic word in the mouths of "scientists" such as Dawkins, with power to create marvelous things out of nothing). Only, not only the "behaviors" are entirely unevidenced, neither are the animals that "did" them are imaginary, the adaptive stories are imaginary, the offspring are imaginary and the unstated statistics of how many offspring organisms performing Dawkins' "behaviors" left as opposed to the members of the species which didn't perform them did, is made up. Dawkins seems to regularly forget that for natural selection to be relevant to a "behavior" then there would have to be members of the species that didn't perform them, otherwise nothing would being selected. I analyzed his most famous creation myth and showed that it is also mathematically impossible and contradicts some of the most classic holdings of the very Darwinism that Dawkins uses in a most question begging manner.


    Which gets us to Hawking and his demand that physics and cosmology be permitted to entirely jettison its subject matter, the physical world and physical law, but just about all of the rest of those things you list:

    "We seem to be at a critical point in the history of science, in which we must alter our conception of goals and of what makes a physical theory acceptable. It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle. The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes." [The Grand Design]

    In short, he, his co-author Mlodinow and every physicist, cosmologist and scientist who let that extraordinary through unchallenged, want to be able to write science-fiction in equations and call it science.

    They were preceeded by others accepted as scientists such as Freud and many others working in the alleged behavioral, cognitive and neurological sciences, the very sciences that depend entirely on the subjective reports of subjects. Reviewing the history of those "sciences" how theories, holdings, entire schools rise up, are held to be science for a number of years or even decades only to topple into the boneyard of discontinued science (all except for the professionals who still see clients for "treatment" at three figures an hour). I have seen statistics that psychiatrists survey as the most atheistic of professions, which doesn't speak well for the relationship between materialism and scientific integrity.

    I have read a lot of science, including psychology, sociology, etc. and I have read a lot of the peer-reviewed literature of psi research and the psi research is, in most cases, entirely better conducted, more rigorous in its control of experiments, more modest in its claimed effects and more rigorously critiqued than any part of psychology. As the eminent statistician Jessica Utts has said, it has surpassed the requirements of science as required of other areas of research. Its un-acceptance is based on distortions of what that research is and the results it shows, when it isn't based in outright lies about it. The standards demanded by the professional pseudo-skeptics and their fans are not applied to any other science. At their worst, those who assert that James Randi is qualified to judge the validity of science, there is no lab that couldn't have its work debunked by his tactics and the license to lie given him by the media, by the pseudo-skeptics and by scientists, including critics of this article such a Jerry Coyne. That is also part of the insertion of ideological materialism directly into science which is as much a culture of scientists as it is any supposed standards of conducting research and analysis. Science exists nowhere in the known universe except in the minds and practices of scientists.

    I think I understand enough of science to have a more realistic picture of it than you seem to.

    Oh dear. Psi research. I get it now. To quote Wikipedia: "Most scientists regard parapsychology as pseudoscience. Parapsychology has been criticised for continuing investigation despite not having demonstrated conclusive evidence of psychic abilities in more than a century of research."
    Get it: no conclusive evidence.
    As far as I can see you are fighting some useless and dreary tribal war that I don't want to be involved in.
    Write a reply if you like but I won't read it. Have a spooky day.

    Anthony_McCarthy  jim birch • 3 hours ago
    1. Wikipedia is the target of an open effort to bias its articles on exactly that area by Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipeidia


    There have been efforts to correct obviously incorrect assertions in articles which would fall under their announced area of activity only to have those edits reversed and the editors blocked. Including information about scientists which I would think falls well into the category of slander. The people in charge of Wikipedia have been notified and they refuse to take action.

    2. And it's not only in this area in which Wikipedia's own establishment has shown it is not trustworthy, there are even more troubling problems with some Wikipedias in other languages, notably the Croatian Wikipedia which is under the control of neo-Nazis and some such as the Kazakh Wikipedia, is under the control of the dictator's government.

    3. Since you claim to be a scientist, what of your work or the work you use in your professional life would you want to be evaluated on the basis of a Wikipedia article instead of reading the reviewed research and evaluating it on that basis and by reading replications and other confirmation of it? I don't believe you would ever accept your own standards for judging psi research for topics you agree with. And that is a violation of the methodological requirement that the standard of criticism has to be controlled, so as to avoid the kind of bias that you and the pseudo-skeptics have made acceptable, substituting your bias for objective evaluation. The pseudo-skeptics demand a right to practice a double standard favoring their ideological beliefs. That is a recipe for destroying the integrity of science.
     • Edit• Reply•Share › 
    Anthony_McCarthy  Anthony_McCarthy • a day ago
    Rereading this, I can report that the worst, most shoddily conducted and most obviously useless psi research conduced in conjunction with an actual university, resulting in the granting of a PhD was that done by a grad student who would later become a star of pseudo-skepticism, Susan Blackmore. She attributed her entry into pseudo-skepticism to her disappointment at the results of her research. But her research was trash, I believe even she has admitted it was inadequately conducted, so it couldn't have shown anything. You can contrast that frequently cited (by pseudo-skeptics) junk with the psi research conducted by real scientists in line with scientifically rigorous requirements. Only I doubt pseudo-skeptics are really interested in a disinterested analysis of research or they'd have already done that.

    Update:   I just noticed that the links in this don't work.  I'll try to fix that later.  Until then, I've decided to put one of them in my bloglist, Dean Radin's Entangled Minds.  You can read he is an excellent experimentalist and analyst by reading his archive.  You will find his post that I linked to in my comments at the top of his blog right now.